Colombo, Sri Lanka—On what can be described as a ‘momentous day for mankind,’ a mating pair of the rare and endemic Sri Lankan clubtail dragonfly, Sri Lanka Forktail Macrogomphus lankanensis was discovered by Amila Salgado in his own yard on Saturday, 24 May, 2008. “The female form of this rare clubtail had not been described by scientists since this species was described in 1933 by the Odontalogist; F.C. Fraser and because of that, this discovery is a very important one” says the discoverer, who was ecstatic following his paparazzi work.
Enough of the cheesy news reporting, and let’s talk more about dragonfly sex first.
The dragonfly mating looks really curious due the bizarre mating positions they adopt. The main reason for this is the male dragonflies seem to be "wrongly constructed." As in all other insects, the male dragonflies have their genital opening at the bottom of the 9th segment of abdomen. However, the copulation organs are found at the second segment. Due to this the male have to transport its sperm from the end of the abdomen to the beginning of the abdomen while bending the abdomen forwards. This is a very rapid operation. Usually the transferred sperm will be sufficient for several copulations.
To mate, the male dragonfly grasps the female's neck with his anal appendages, raises his abdomen and invites the female to bend her abdomen to join her genital opening with his copulating organ. At this stage, the couple is said to be in "tandem position." Another name for the same is "wheel position."
The anal appendages that the male uses to clasp the back of the female's head will only fit into the females of the same species. The duration the male and female would be in tandem position varies from species to species—from a few seconds to several minutes. They may fly in tandem or find a suitable place to settle in the process.
Coming back to the current observation, the Sri Lanka Forktail pair was spotted in tandem position hanging in a coconut frond at my a woody patch in my yard, when I specifically went in search of the elusive female of this rare clubtail dragonfly! That made this discovery all the more special.
Here's closer look at my private jungle.
For all intents and purposes it was a marathon mating effort lasting for over half an hour and I was able to photograph them in different angles (through digiscoping) as they remained locked in their passionate embrace.
Soon after the mating was over, I was able to photograph the male and the female resting low in a slightly open spot. During the real time observations and studying the photographs subsequently of the mating pair, it was obvious to me that the female has a larger body compared to the male and is marked with somewhat bolder yellow spots along the body.
Tracing back to the pictures posted a few days ago, it became clear to me that those indeed were of a female as it appears to have a fatter look to it with more prominent yellow markings although I did not take much notice of these differences at that time.
Below is a male photographed by me and shown in a previous post. Its identity and gender was confirmed by the Odontologist Matjaž Bedjanič.
And below is the individual that I photographed and shared by me in this blog previously. I have rotated the image for easier comparison. Now that I have seen a pair in tandem, it looks to be a female due to structural and morphological similarities to the female observed. I will soon break the news to the Odonatoholics including Matjaž who encouraged me to look for females (of this dragonfly).
Sri Lanka Forktail Up close and personal.
Dragons in my garden Part-2.
This post is my contribution to Circus Of The Spineless #33 hosted by Seeds Aside